The personal account of my great-grandfather Chalie Welch’s uncle, Chales Edwin Welch, concerning his early life in Maine, his father’s trip to the California Gold Fields, and his own travel there at the age of 14, and more. This is followed by an account of his wife,Sarah, which also provides relevant family information.
SOURCE: “History of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present” by George H. Tinkham, 1921, 344 pages.
CHARLES EDWIN WELCH.— Seldom has a pioneer of substantial attainment left a more interesting, if unpretentious, record of his experiences than that
which the late Charles Edwin Welch penned for his family circle in the early eighties.
He came to California a poor boy, and by unremitting industry and unfailing loyalty
to an ideal, persevered until he commanded a position of wide influence among; the
citizens of Stanislaus County and enjoyed with his near-of-kin a competency. What
trials he underwent to reach his enviable station Mr. Welch has told us thus:
“I was born at Athens, in the state of Maine, in the year 1840. My father,
Philip Hubbard Welch, was of the same county and state, and my mother, Delia M.
Welch, was from Brunswick, Maine. During the fourth year of my age, my parents
sold their little farm and migrated to the city of Portland, Maine ; and my father’s
means being limited, we children only had the advantages of a common school edu-
cation. In 1849, when the gold excitement of California broke out, my father sailed in
September of that year around Cape Horn, in the brig Ruth, for the land of gold,
arriving in San Francisco in the month of February following, after a five months’
voyage. The vessel belonging to a joint stock company, thev sold her and disbanded,
and started for the mines. My father located in Columbia, Tuolumne County, where
he made money fast, got together about $15,000 and had it deposited with Adams &
Company, at the time of the failure of that firm; and then being somewhat discouraged
and homesick, he sent back for the family to come. My mother, being unable to sell
the property to advantage, could not come. I gave my mother no peace until she let
me go in advance to my father.
“On the 14th of November, 1854, I bade adieu to my kind and dear mother and
three little brothers, and started on the broad and deep road to the Golden Gate by
way of Nicaragua. Three days up the Nicaragua we had a nice trip shooting at
crocodiles and alligators lying along the banks of the river, and crossed the Isthmus
lying between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean, twelve miles by land. The
natives furnished the passengers with conveyances and ponies, the latter not larger than
four-month colts, the saddles similar to pack saddles, cross-trees with rawhides stretched
over them, and large black stirrups. These ponies are generally contrary; after getting
two or three miles on the road they will commence turning round and round, run
backwards and fall, and jump and work their way nearly back to the place where they
started from. My luck was to transport myself on one of that class of amiable animals,
for I must say that I had the worst one in the crowd that I started with. My companions got tired of trying to help me along, for they had about all they could do to
navigate themselves. Finally, I and my steed were left alone in the road, and while
trying to persuade the animal to move, a native lady came galloping up the road, and
seeing I could proceed no further without aid, volunteered her valuable services, and
riding up to that prostate brute, she administered about fifty cuts with her whip, when
my pony became very anxious to go ; so mounting my steed in company with my lady
friend, we dashed off at the rate of twelve miles per hour, arriving at the hotel some
half an hour ahead of the parties I had started with. I shall never forget the kindness
shown me by that lady.
“The next morning I embarked in the steamer Uncle Sam, and arrived at San
Francisco on December 9 — twenty-three days from New York. Remaining in San
Francisco a few days, went to Stockton, and thence to Knights Ferry in company with
two other parties on foot — my first black mud traveling experience, of which a few
miles went a long ways, as shown by the distance gained in a hard day’s walk in the
rain, which only got me to the Fourteen Mile House — fourteen miles from Stockton.
I obtained a good meal and lodged in the barn that night, as that was the only accommodation. The next day we took passage on the stage for Columbia, Tuolumne
County, where we arrived just about dusk, and stopped at a French restaurant.
“Here, upon inquiry, I found that my father had removed to Sonora. The next
morning the noisiest man I ever heard was old Sam Deligar, the stage driver from
Columbia to Sonora, drumming up passengers. Old Sam was familiarly known by
old residents of this county for many years afterwards, but he has long since been dead.
At Sonora I found my father and oldest brother ;. they were engaged in mining their
claim, which was located just east of Lucas’ Star Hotel, on Shaw’s Flat. I remained
with my father and brother about six months, building reservoirs, ditches, etc. Water
was very high — four dollars per day for a nine-inch head. The claim paid very well
for a short time, but finally dwindled down. The placer mines at that time were
generally paying very well. So I left our little mining camp and went on my own
resources, getting a job with a man by the name of George Conant, from Massa-
chusetts at four dollars per day. I afterwards worked on a river claim on the Tuol-
umne, on Stevens’ Bar, in the night gang, shoveling tailings from a dump box in
water, knee deep; not good pay, but a lot of hard, disagreeable work.
“I then tried farming a while. I came down to the valley in May, 1856, and
went to work through harvest for Mr. Langworthy, residing then near Stockton ; and
after harvest I fell in with ex-Gov. Bradley of Nevada, vaqueroed for him in the San
Joaquin for about eighteen months, when I came over on to the Tuolumne River and
went to work for Frank Sturge, and have remained in this locality ever since.
“In the year 1860, at Horr’s Ranch, I was married to Sarah E. Ramsey, from
Benton County, Mo. In 1864 I took up a homestead of 160 acres, on which I still
reside. We have four sons and five daughters living, and one daughter dead. I came
to this county in 1857, and engaged in farming. My farm consists of 982 acres,
located thirteen miles from the county seat, and nine miles from the railroad.”
Mr. Welch was an Odd Fellow and a staunch Republican, but never aspired to
office. His demise occurred November 8, 1897, his passing taking away one of the
pioneers and upbuilders of Stanislaus County.
pp. 556-558 (Includes Portrait Photo)
MRS. SARAH E. WELCH. — An accomplished and extremely interesting lady
who may boast of having borne the burden and the heat of the day in strenuous
California pioneer life, is Mrs. Sarah E. Welch of Waterford, who, although seventy-
nine years old, need not yet acknowledge a gray hair. She was born near Warsaw,
Benton County, Mo., on August 18, 1842, a daughter of George Ramsey, who had mar-
ried Miss Agnes Kinkead, both natives of Kentucky. Their marriage took place in
Missouri; and there they were prosperous farmers. In 1849, George Ramsay joined
the California gold rush, crossing the plains in an ox-team train. Soon after having
reached the promised land, he died on Weaver Creek. His wife’s brother was in the
party and he wrote the widow, telling of his death. She then sold the farm and with
her four girls went to live with her father, Milton Kinkead, near Warsaw, Mo., and
there she made her home until he died, in 1885. The four girls were: Jane, who is
now the widow of Erastus Gregory, who was killed in the Civil War as a Con-
federate soldier. She is eighty-one years old, and lives in Benton County, Mo. Sarah
E. is the subject of our story, and was the second in the order of birth. Love is the wife
of G. B. Browder of Waterford. Mrs. Martha E. Hortman died at Fresno in 1916.
Sarah Ramsey first saw the light near Warsaw, and attended a private school in
Missouri, and when she was sixteen years past of age, she came to California with her
Grandmother, Jane Kinkead, the widow of Milton Kinkead, who had died in Missouri.
The oldest sister was married, and remained in Missouri. Mrs. Welch’s mother had
died in Missouri in 1855, and Grandmother Kinkead and the Ramsey girls, the three
youngest granddaughters, came with Mrs. Welch’s uncle, Albert Kinkead, and a train
of twelve wagons. They first settled at Empire; and in 1860 at the Hores ranch in
Stanislaus County, on the Tuolumne River, now called Roberts Ferry, Miss Sarah E.
Ramsey was married to Charles Edwin Welch, whereupon they homesteaded 160 acres
one mile west of Waterford, when in 1865 they built the first house on the plains in
that section, proved up and added to it by purchase until they had 1,000 acres. Mr.
Welch farmed to grain and rented land in Merced County besides ; and at one time
he farmed 4,000 acres there, and 2,000 acres in Stanislaus County, and was a bonanza
farmer. Mr. Welch died on November 8, 1897, at San Francisco, while his home was
at Waterford, the father of ten children — six girls and four boys.
Albion Forest, the eldest, runs the Highway Garage in Modesto. Martha Ellen
married Ira Fox, a rancher in the Montpellier precinct, and passed away in 1901, the
mother of three children, Roy A. is of Valley Springs, Calif. ; Hazel May Hall lives at
Hatch, Calif., and Mrs. Alma Olson is at Montpellier. Mae Delia is the wife of Isam
H. Bentley, now of Pendleton, Ore., and a son of Richard Bentley, one of the earliest
pioneers of Stanislaus County. She resides in Waterford, where she assists her mother
in presiding over the home, and has two children, one having passed away. This la-
mented one was named Lorena, became the wife of Elmer Moore, of Pendleton, and
in that city she died in 1918. Maud is the wife of George Stangier, of Pendleton,
Ore., and she has two children, Jack and Jimmy. And the third child is a son, Chesley
I. Bentley, whose sketch is to be found elsewhere in this volume. Laura Jane is the
wife of Jacob Martin, a pioneer of the Paulsell district, now of Stockton, and she
has two children, Erwin and and Lyla. Charles Milton works for the Southern Pa-
cific; he married Anna Feldthouse of Snelling, Merced County, and they have had two
daughters, Arleta Fay and Lorena. Clara Belle became Mrs. Charles Clavvson, and
she resides at Oakland with her two children, Claude and Ruby. Lula died when she
was three and a half years old. Alice Edna is the wife of Jesse M. Findley, ranchers
near Waterford. Walter W. is a barber in Merced and Marion Ernest, the tenth in
the order of birth, lives at Oakland. He married Henrietta Harding, and they have
one daughter, Sarah Frances. He is a traveling salesman for a wholesale merchant in
Oakland. Mrs. Welch thus has eight living children, twenty-one grandchildren, and
Our subject well recalls their first house on the plains, and the early days when
wild Spanish cattle and coyotes were numerous. Mr. Welch, who was a native of
Bangor, Maine, was an experienced farmer and came to operate on a large scale. After
her husband’s death, Mrs. Welch built, in 1911, the bungalow house at Waterford,
in which she has since resided, and two years later she sold her land. The center of a
large circle of admiring, devoted friends, she now enjoys life, free from all care.